Denny Student Blog: Alan


At Denny International Middle School (DIMS), we pride ourselves on the promotion and advancement of a “culture of literacy.” Around every corner and classroom, you will find contest flyers, inspirational quotes, event announcements, and bits of learning all concerning literacy. The teachers and administration all think of literacy as less of a standard to be taught, but more of a cause to be furthered. We want our students to love reading, even find it to be infectious, and write well.

Last year, a City Year corps member named Sam Boutelle was one of many individuals who worked tirelessly alongside teachers and staff to help spread this literary fervor. Sam, however, soon discovered there was a problem. He noticed that for the most part, students had responded well to the impassioned exaltation of literacy, particularly in writing: producing poems, essays, stories, and book reviews. All of which were deserving of a little extra praise and recognition than a Level 3 or Level 4 grading could bring. But none came. Instead, they would be passed back to the student and soon thereafter become forever lost in the paper-stuffed abyss that is a middle schooler’s backpack. I never had the pleasure of meeting or working with Sam myself, but I imagine his response was, “That’s simply not good enough.”

Sam took to the internet to find a solution, and the “DIMS Authors and Scholars Blog” was born. Run by the City Year ELA coordinators and supported by teachers and staff, the blog is an online platform for highlighting the vibrant community of talented creative writers and artists at Denny. It is referred to as a single blog, but in actuality it is three separate webpages, each dedicated to a grade level. All three are filled with everything from expository essays to pencil sketchings, and a wide variety of poems in all shapes, sizes, and styles. All together, the blog boasts a combined 81 postings and has garnered over 2,000 views in just two years. You can check out the blog posts here:

6th Grade Blog
7th Grade Blog
8th Grade Blog

Admittedly, this might all seem like little more than a shameless plug in an attempt to amass a larger viewing audience, but what I think we can all learn from Sam and the DIMS Blog is no solution to a problem is ever outside the reach of innovation. If it bothers you, address it. If it doesn’t exist, create it. And if it is met with indifference, assess the situation with a clear mind, a level head, and the courage to either stay the course or move on. As for me, I will continue to make sure that students have the opportunity to share their creativity, their struggles, their triumphs, their questions, and the workings of their inner selves with the world. Why? Because writings like this one, submitted to the blog by an 8th grader, should never go unseen:

As a young girl,
I was surrounded by hate,
Parents fighting until divorce,
It left me alone,
My family broken,
Now a teenager,
Everyone’s caring and happy,
I have a step-father,
I’m no longer alone,
My family is a fixed mirror,
Though you can still see the cracks,
It’s because I’m a Denny Dolphin
and I finally belong.

Go Dolphins.

City Year Serves in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. said “Life’s most persistent question is: what are you doing for others?”  These profound words from Doctor King remind us of the empowerment and joy one can receive through a lifetime dedication to service. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day stands as a national holiday to encourage civic engagement in service work that strengthens our communities and echoes Kings’ commitment to fighting injustice.



On Monday, January 21, 2013 Seattle’s entire City Year corps, staff and over 40 volunteers gathered at Denny International Middle School in West Seattle to engage in physical service. We served as a a team of dedicated children, current and former City Year board members, and employees of Starbucks; including President of US Operations, Cliff Burrows and Regional Director, Mitch Evans.
Denny International is a new building with many blank walls. To create a more welcoming and supportive environment for our scholars, we spent the day painting a large mural in one of the school’s main stairwells. Assistant Principal Patricia Rangel spoke to the powerful artwork designed by Intensive School Partnership Coordinator for Seattle Public School District, Nate Sanders, calling the mural “A project that’s an evolving mirror to our entire community about the importance of knowing our history, remembering our heroes, and recognizing that we contribute to this journey of justice every day in the commitment we make to our students and our work together.”

Across the street, at the park which is part of The Southwest Teen Life Center and former location of the old Denny School building, City Year corps members and volunteers got their hands dirty weeding and landscaping rain gardens.  Each of the sizeable rain gardens are critical to the ecological health of the community and provide a natural filtration of our region’s rain water before reaching Puget Sound.  The project’s lead coordinator, Gretchen DeDecker with Seattle Public Schools claims the job done on Monday translates to nearly three months of staff work time. DeDecker thanks the corps, stating: “Today you reminded me why I LOVE City Year! Your positive spirit, energy, organization skills, and endurance made such a huge difference at the raingardens.”

Corps Member Sam Boutelle proudly reflects on the meaning and impact of our MLK day service: “The civil rights movement demonstrated the imperative for the unity of purpose in effecting social change.  Although we didn’t move mountains on MLK day, I do believe that the collaboration and fellowship we got to enjoy as we served made the day brighter for all involved and demonstrated the power that we share together.”

Written by Becka Gross, City Year corps member serving as a dedicated tutor and mentor this year to the students at Denny International Middle School.

City Year Celebrates Opening Day 2012!

City Year Seattle/King County corps member, Becka Gross, is serving with the JPMorgan Chase Diplomas Now team at Denny International Middle School. Below she recounts the power of City Year’s Opening Day.

On Friday, September 21, the 2012-13 City Year Seattle/King County corps ran through the doors of City Hall joining an audience of friends, family, board members, donors, and elected officials to officially kick off the start of full-time service in schools. City Year Executive Director, Simon Amiel, fired up the audience and corps, leading them in a chant: “More kids, in school, and on track to succeed!”

City Year corps members, staff, elected officials, donors and community members came together to celebrate Opening Day.

City Year corps members, staff, elected officials, donors and community members came together to celebrate Opening Day.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn shared his support for City Year and the impact he believes our service has on the community. Comcast sponsor and City Year board member, Steve Holmes, also shared his gratitude for the incoming corps, stating that the work of City Year is “changing the forecast for a generation to one of hope.” Another highlight from the event’s program was Jessica Silye, a City Year alumna, who shared the stage with a former student she worked with, Sam Martin. Together they described how both of their lives were profoundly impacted by their experiences together and the work of City Year.

City Year alumna, Jessica Silye, and her former student, Sam Martin, talk about the experience they shared together through City Year.

City Year alumna, Jessica Silye, and her former student, Sam Martin, talk about the experience they shared together through City Year.

The keynote address came from corps member and recent graduate of Garfield High School, Mohamed Adan, who inspired the crowd with his life story and passion for service.  After fleeing chaos and violence in Somalia, Adan’s family sought refuge in Kenya and eventually was granted political asylum in the United States. Adan entered Seattle’s public school system at six years old and found in the years to follow that the new language and culture created great barriers against his academic success. While recalling teachers suggesting to his class that they ask their parents for homework help, Adan said with a grin, “my parents didn’t speak a lick of English and attempting to solicit their help on my homework would have resulted in blank stares or a whole lot of head scratching.” Though his teachers were supportive and dedicated, they did not have the resources to provide the individualized support necessary to foster each student.

City Year corps member, Mohamed Adan, shares his experience of growing up in Seattle and what inspired him to serve his community.

City Year corps member, Mohamed Adan, shares his experience of growing up in Seattle and what inspired him to serve his community.

Adan reminisced about the people in his life who believed in him, helped him overcome the setbacks he encountered, and ensured his success. People in his school and community “who dedicated themselves to education. Who believed in the potential of every student to succeed, and who worked hard in difficult situations and with limited resources because they knew the tremendous impact education could have upon their students.”

The community support, words of encouragement, and palpable enthusiasm of Adan reminded the corps, and each member of the audience, of the vital importance of the mission they are embarking upon. We can’t wait to see the impact that each of our 67 corps members makes this year!

*To see more photos from Opening Day, click here.

Making Literacy Count


This gallery contains 4 photos.

The school year is a little over a month and a half into the swing of things here at Denny International Middle School in West Seattle and students, staff, and City Year corps members are still settling into their new … Continue reading

Dolphin Attendance: “Be Here Get There”


This gallery contains 3 photos.

At the recent launch of the “Be Here Get There” attendance campaign at Denny International Middle School,  Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced, “students with 20 or more absences a year have less than a 1 in 5 chance of graduating … Continue reading